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World Environment Day: Bridging Environmental Sustainability And Economic Growth

In 2024, with the theme being ‘land restoration, desertification and drought resilience’, Saudi Arabia as the host will focus on three key trends; restoring land, halting desertification and building drought resilience

Environmental degradation as defined by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is “the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives, and needs”. Ahead of the annual global celebration of World Environment Day, a series of events were hosted in anticipation of the big day, and international gatherings were held where important issues surrounding the environment were discussed.

World Environment Day has been a large international platform for environmental action since 1972 when it was first established by the United Nations General Assembly. Each year on 5 June, millions of people in government, business, civil society and all other walks of life join in celebrating mother earth, raising awareness and influencing environmental action led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In 2024, with the theme being ‘land restoration, desertification and drought resilience’, Saudi Arabia as the host will focus on three key trends; restoring land, halting desertification and building drought resilience.

The world is traversing a dangerous and tragic landscape with up to 40 per cent of the world’s land already degraded, while an estimated 3.2 billion people worldwide are negatively impacted by desertification, and more than three-quarters of the world’s population is expected to be affected by droughts by 2050, according to the Drought in Numbers report, released during the 15th Conference of Parties.

To promote awareness and engage the younger generation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched #GenerationRestoration, a global movement revitalizing ecosystems. The report “Becoming #GenerationRestoration” summarizes evidence on ecosystem degradation and emphasizes the economic, environmental, and social benefits of restoration.

In recent years, urbanization has exacerbated land degradation and increased water stress in the Asia and the Pacific region. As cities continue to grow they will inevitably accelerate increasing global waste and pollution. Therefore, the pressing biodiversity and climate change crises require societies to start adopting nature-based solutions that integrate and enhance ecosystems. To achieve its successful implementation though, scientific information regarding its benefits and suitability must be communicated with people at large.

Cities today must undergo necessary changes and adapt innovative and efficient technology for sustainable use. This is why a shift towards smart infrastructure is necessary that is driven by advancements in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector, integrating IoT devices, big data analytics, and digital connectivity into urban management systems.

Experts Views

Aditi Balbir, Co-founder of EcoRatings said, “Climate disasters are upon us and yet countries, companies and people are slow to change. What is that one thing that will make a difference? GenAI technologies can analyse vast sets of unrelated data, create patterns and give us insights in real-time, to make decisions now. For example – what is the quality of our soil, what are the unique techniques for regeneration specific to small and large farmers? Where is the new desert likely to emerge? What land is subject to which sort of climate risk? And how can it be mitigated? GenAI gives insights into a specific location, using macro data, satellite imagery and factors unique to a particular part of the world. GenAI is how we protect our land, and create our future.”

Further, Piyush Somani, Chairman, CMD and CEO of ESDS Software Solutions also talked about the crucial role of the technology sector in driving sustainable development and highlights ESDS’s dedication to environmental stewardship.

“World Environment Day calls for industries to embrace sustainable development, with the technology sector leading the charge. At ESDS, we are committed to sustainability through a robust ESG framework and patented energy-efficient technologies. Our Vertical Scaling technology optimizes server resources, achieving around 30 per cent energy savings by enhancing performance and efficiency, significantly reducing electricity consumption and carbon emissions. Precision measures such as air conditioning systems, power factor panels, and motion sensors have cut energy usage by 20 per cent in our data centres,” Somani stated.

This journey towards sustainability cannot be traversed alone. According to the experts, it requires collective action and industry-wide collaboration. As we observe World Environment Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to innovation that fosters ecological sustainability, shaping a resilient future for future generations.”

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day underscores the urgent need to restore our ecosystems while also ensuring that economic activities are sustainable and beneficial to all. According to World Bank estimates, environmental damages translate into economic costs of up to 5 and 10 per cent of GDP in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. These costs may be attributed to 20 per cent of the total burden of diseases in the Region like malnutrition. This is why investing in ecosystem restoration can lead to the yielding of significant economic benefits.

On 5 June 2024, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) are organising an event to discuss solutions including circular water resource use, sustainable food production, and drought-resilient urban development specific to the region, and bring together key partners and stakeholders to tackle these critical issues.

Later in the environmental calendar this year, Saudi Arabia will again host a major environmental event: the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Riyadh from 2 to 13 December 2024. it is hoped the conference will accelerate action on drought resilience.

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